Challah (pronounced with that crackling, Donald-Duck spin on the “ch”), is a great Jewish bread served on the sabbath, and for holiday celebrations. It has no particular symbolic Hanukkah association (as latkes do!), but you can be sure lots of Jews will be serving it anyway during the holidays. Its most distinctive features are its golden yellow interior, and the lovely, shiny, braided crust.
makes 2 braided loaves
6 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons beaten egg yolks
1 1/3 cups cool water
3 tablespoons salt
3 1/2 teaspoons Instant Yeast
olive oil for greasing the bowl
cornmeal for dusting sheet pan
1. Place the all-purpose flour, softened unsalted butter, honey, egg yolks, cool water, salt and yeast in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.
2. Mix the ingredients on a very slow speed until just combined. Increase the mixer speed up to medium-high, and continue to mix the dough for 7 minutes. The ball of dough should be thoroughly kneaded.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Remove the ball of dough from the mixer and place in the oiled bowl. Cover and place in a warm area (such as a turned-off oven) until the dough ball has doubled in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
4. Lightly flour a rolling pin and a counter top with extra all-purpose flour. Remove the dough to the counter. Using the rolling pin, flatten the dough to expel all the gases that have developed inside. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces.
5. Roll each piece into individual cylinders. Place the cylinders on the counter top so that they are not touching each other and cover the group with a damp cloth. Let rest for 40 minutes.
6. Make your first loaf. Using your hands, roll each of 3 cylinders into a rope approximately 12″ long. Place the 3 strands so that they are parallel to one another and pinch the together the tops of all three so that the strands are connected. Beginning with the left-hand strand, cross the strand over the center strand, so that it is now the center strand. Carefully cross the right-hand strand over the new center strand only, so that this strand is now the center strand. Take the strand at the far left and cross over the center strand, leaving so that this strand is now the center strand. Repeat, moving the strand from alternate sides toward the middle until the loaf is completely braided. Pinch together the bottom of the 3 cylinders to seal.
7. Repeat the process to make 1 more braided loaf of bread, a total of 2.
8. Place each loaf about 7″ apart onto a parchment-paper lined baking pan sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush the dough braids with egg wash, cover the loaves with a damp cloth and place them in a warm area until they have almost doubled in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
9. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees 30 minutes prior to baking. Just before placing the dough braids into the oven, gently brush them with egg wash. Place the dough braids into the oven and bake them until they are golden brown and completely cooked, about 25-27 minutes. The baked loaves should have an internal temperature of 200 degrees.
10. Remove the bread from the oven and cool to room temperature.
*Just prior to placing the dough braids into the oven, try sprinkling the top of them with either poppy or sesame seeds.
*The dough, non-braided, can be baked in two 9″ x 5″ loaf pan to make two sandwich loaves.